Cynthia Manson (Editor) // Mystery For Halloween

She was an old cat, coal black, lean and ugly. Her right ear had been chewed and her old hide showed scars, but she had a regal look when she sat under the rosebushes in the plaza and surveyed us with yellow-green eyes.

~ “The Black Cat” by Lee Somerville

Title:  Mystery For Halloween 
Author:  Cynthia Manson (Editor), Lawrence Treat, Terry Bacon, Alan Ryan, Pauline C. Smith, Janet O’Daniel, Andrew Klavan, Theodore H. Hoffman, George Sumner Albee, Richard F. McGonegal, Elliott Capon, Edward D. Hoch, David Braly, Richard Ciciarelli, Dashiell Hammett, Lee Somerville, Donald E. Westlake
Publisher: Signet, 1991

Mystery for Halloween is an anthology of sixteen short stories, all of which were published in either Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine or Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

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Lynn Cahoon // A Deadly Brew

The planchette started to move on the board. Darla called out the letters as Esmerelda paused. Her arms felt loose and unresponsive under my hand. I would have sworn she wasn’t moving at all, yet I watched the letters being chosen. One by one.

 

Title: A Deadly Brew 
Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Publisher: Lyrical Press, September 04, 2018
Format/Source: ebook, Scribd
ISBN:  9781516108206   Series: Tourist Trap

 

This one is a novella, so it is a short and sweet way to start off the Halloween season. As part of a charity fund-raising event, Jill and her friends are spending a weekend locked in an abandoned house that is scheduled to be demolished after Halloween. The home’s previous owner disappeared decades earlier, so the story goes, but her spirit may have never left. This mystery packs a lot into a little space: ghosts, a missing woman, murder, and witchcraft. The plot is very layered and is possibly better suited for a full length novel; there are so many developments which beg to be explored further but are only summarized. However, I still enjoyed stumbling along with the characters as they explored the house and worked to decipher the clues they found. I do wish there had been a bit more spooky suspense in the story. The supernatural elements were alright, but considering this was a story about a haunted house, I expected more goosebumps than I got. Other than those complaints, I found reading A Deadly Brew to be a nice way to spend a chilly October afternoon.

Auralee Wallace // Haunted Hayride with Murder

I scanned the trees with my flashlight. “I think we’ve found our—Freddie? Where did you go?” I spun my flashlight around only to have it land on him perched atop a boulder at the side of the trail. “What are you doing? Get down from there.”

 

Title: Haunted Hayride with Murder
Author: Auralee Wallace
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, September 25, 2018
Format/Source: ebook, iBooks
ISBN:  9781250151506  Series: Otter Lake

It’s almost Halloween, and this year Erica and Freddie’s company, Otter Lake Security (hashtag OLS) is overseeing festivities at the Honeycutt Apple Orchard. Erica thinks it will be a fun gig. Why wouldn’t it be? There’s a haunted barn, a creepy corn maze, and Grandma Honeycutt’s heavenly apple crumble. The only drawback, really, is Freddie. Local legend claims the orchard woods are haunted by the Apple Witch, and Freddie is terrified he’ll run in to her. Their employee, Rhonda’s, insistence on “thirty-one days of horror” movie nights has only amplified his fears. But as long as Erica can talk Freddy down from the boulders, it should all be fine, right?

Then a boot is found, along with a decomposing foot, and even though Erica is insistent that she is not investigating the case, she so is.

 

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Anthony Horowitz // The Word Is Murder

 

Diana Cowper had planned her own funeral and she was going to need it. She was murdered about six hours later that same day.

 

Title: The Word is Murder
Author:  Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Century, August 24, 2017
Format/Source: Hardcover, Bookstore
ISBN:  9781780896847   

 

After reading Magpie Murders, I had very high hopes for this novel. Perhaps a teensy bit too high.

The Word is Murder is an unusual novel because Anthony Horowitz has written himself into it as the story’s narrator. His character is roped into playing a sort of Watson to freelance PI Daniel Hawthorne’s Holmes as they investigate the death of a wealthy widow. The insertion of Horowitz into the story as a main character is clever gimmick, but not really much more. Still, it is entertaining to be given access into Horowitz’s world; it would be interesting to know how much of it is fact and how much is fiction. Passages regarding his work on projects like Rin Tin Tin and Foyle’s War are especially engaging.

I really only have one problem with this novel: Hawthorne. Every time he sulks onto a page, I instinctively bristle. He is sullen and boorish, as well as manipulative. He gets some scraps of character development at the story’s end, but overall Hawthorne lacks any charisma. It’s not that I need to like his character, but cringing every time he barges into a room or flippantly disregards anyone else’s observations is, at least for me, problematic.

Luckily, I can overlook Hawthorne’s eccentricities because Horowitz provides a bevy of suspects with juicy motives and a tightly plotted mystery which kept me happily puzzled until (almost) the end. Those high hopes of mine weren’t reached, but I still enjoyed reading The Word is Murder. If this does become a series, as I believe Horowitz has said he plans it to be, I will definitely be picking up the next novel when it is released. You hear that, Hawthorne? You might have one more chance to grow on me.

 

Kate White // Even If It Kills Her

I replaced the cover and was about to press it back into a locked position when I heard what I thought were footsteps, the scuff of shoes on gravel. I cocked my head toward the sidewall, trying to listen. Was someone out there? 

 

Title: Even If It Kills Her
Author:  Kate White
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks, October 31, 2017
Format/Source: ebook, Scribd
ISBN:  9780062448880  Series: Bailey Weggins

 

This most recent entry into the Bailey Weggins series is full of family secrets. It’s part of a series, but this could have easily been a stand-alone novel. No need to read the first six in order to enjoy this one. Even If It Kills Her reminds me of a good tv movie: A few inconsistencies in the writing and a lack of depth in the characters, but still a fun escape from the real world. I guessed whodunnit well before Bailey did, but the why had me stumped. Mainly, I suppose, because the solution to this mystery is slightly out there; not implausible, but not something I would have ever considered. I was more confused by the big twist near the end of the novel than I was shocked. This isn’t the most thrilling or suspenseful entry into the series, but it is entertaining. The suspects are aplenty and the mystery is baffling. Not a page turner, but not a mystery to be dismissed either.

 

 

 

 

Naomi Hirahara // Murder On Bamboo Lane

Yellow crime tape has already been stretched across the narrow street by the time I arrive. My colleagues, on bikes and in black and whites, are already there. Curious onlookers loiter before they are told to move on. In the middle of the alley, a couple of detectives are blocking the view of something on the ground, presumably the body.

 

Title: Murder on Bamboo Lane
Author: Naomi Hirahara
Publisher: Penguin Group, April 1, 2014
Format/Source: ebook, iBooks
ISBN:  9781101609453  Series: Ellie Rush

A Vietnamese girl goes missing and her body is later found in an alley on Bamboo Lane. Rookie bicycle cop Ellie Rush recognizes the girl, Jenny Nguyen, as someone she knew at college and feels compelled to track down Jenny’s killer.

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Simone St. James // The Broken Girls

Fiona walked slowly into the middle of the room. The hair on the back of her neck felt cold. Suddenly she didn’t want to take pictures. She didn’t want to be here at all anymore. 

 

Title: The Broken Girls
Author:  Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley, March 20, 2018
Format/Source: Hardcover, Bookstore
ISBN:  9780451476203   

 

Idlewild Hall, a home for troubled girls, shut its doors in 1979; in 2014, a renovation financed by an anonymous benefactor unearths the secrets surrounding the disappearance of an Idlewild student in 1950 and the discovery of a girl’s body on the property decades later.

 

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